North Korea is Forcing Middle School Kids to Enlist
North Korea is reportedly forcing middle school kids to sign petitions for enlistment into the military as the threat of war looms just over the horizon.
“I will volunteer to join the People’s Army to protect my country,” reads the petition that authorities are coercing young North Koreans to sign, reports Daily NK, citing sources in country. The North has been pressuring its youth, from middle school to university, to sign up for battle.
“Youth from all over the country and university students have submitted petitions for enrollment or reenlistment, and even 15-year-old students are signing the forms,” a source in Ryanggang Province recently told Daily NK,”The petitions are being signed under forcible and coercive pressure from the North Korean authorities.”
The Rodong Sinmun, the mouthpiece of the ruling party, revealed earlier this month that 3 million people had “voluntarily” applied for enlistment, but it has actually been forcing people to enlist. The North Korean military — the Korean People’s Army — has already lowered the physical requirements, specifically those for height and weight, for service to boost its numbers, but the country may be considering lowering the minimum age for military service. Most North Koreans, assuming they do not have some debilitating illness, are eligible for service.
In addition to domestic opposition, a major problem is that North Korea is already struggling to feed its 1.2 million troops. The heavily-sanctioned country, which regularly fails to produce adequate amounts of food for its malnourished population, cannot provide for several million additional soldiers. The World Food Program estimates that 70 percent of the population does not have access to adequate amounts of food supplies.
North Korea spends roughly 25 percent of its GDP on the military, but it does not have the ability to properly feed its troops.
“There are too many soldiers to feed,” Japanese filmmaker Jiro Ishimaru, who has ties to sources inside North Korea, revealed to the Guardian, “and corruption is rife, so that by the time senior military officers have taken their share of food provisions to sell for profit on the private market, there is next to nothing left for ordinary soldiers.” The documentary filmmaker has personally seen emaciated and malnourished soldiers along the Yalu River.
North Korean troops are “in poor physical condition and in no fit state to fight,” he added.
This report is consistent with other reports coming from inside North Korea. “The regime has not been providing enough food for its army, leaving many soldiers suffering from malnutrition and attempting desertion,” Daily NK’s source said.
“For this reason, students do not aspire to serve in the army,” the inside source further explained, providing an understanding for the North’s new coercive enlistment activities.
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